ISRA’s third annual iDeb8 focused on Freedom of Speech in relation to Religious Vilification, one of the most controversial topics of today. So who WON?
The audience voted in favour of regulating freedom of speech, an outcome that was in agreement with the pre-debate public poll.
The stellar line up of speakers attracted a large crowd, and although the affirmative team won, the negative team succeeded in doubling their pre-poll to final support.
The opposing team, comprised of Randa Abdel-Fattah, Amal Awad and Antony Loewenstein, acknowledged that freedom of speech is not an absolute right, and upheld that censoring inconvenient views is a way of legitimizing such opinions.
Amal Awad argued that freedom of speech could not be realistically limited, and Antony Loewenstein closed by raising the issue of punishment and legally defining what is considered religiously vilifying.
“Do not make martyrs of those who disagree with us,” said Amal Awad, renowned writer and journalist.
Shaoquett Moselmane, Dr. Ghena Krayem and Mohamed Taha were on the affirmative team, and put forward that religious vilification does not contribute to the exchange of ideas, and that individuals should be able to seek legal retribution.
“Even beautiful roses have thorns, and if mishandled they can draw blood,” said member of the Legislative Council Shaoquett Moselmane about freedom of speech.
Dr. Ghena Krayem emphasized that the government is the “custodian of our votes and voices”, and that individuals should be able to seek legal defence against religious vilification just as they can seek legal defence against racial vilification.
“It’s not about protecting religion, it’s about protecting an individual’s rights,” said youth advocate Mohamed Taha.